Cast: Ajay Devgan, Akshaye Khanna, Bipasha Basu
'Aakrosh', directed by Priyadarshan, and starring Ajay Devgan and Akshaye Khanna has some powerful, gripping moments. But credit for that must go to 'Mississippi Burning', the Oscar-nominated 1988 film by Alan Parker, of which this film is a shameless copy.
Devgan and Khanna star as CBI officers packed off to Jhanjhad, a small town in Bihar, to investigate the disappearance of three male students who were last sighted there. As they sniff around for possible clues, they uncover many dirty secrets including the involvement of the local police and politicians in the murder of a low-caste Dalit boy and his two friends who dared to elope with an upper-caste girl.
Despite ripping off several key scenes from the original film with faithful precision, Priyadarshan's desi remake doesn't deliver the brutal punch of "Mississippi Burning" because the director can't seem to decide if he's making a realistic film on an important social issue, or a fast-paced action thriller. He saddles the drama with a gratuitous romantic back-story between Devgan's character and the wife of a corrupt cop (played by Bipasha Basu), and also throws in an entirely unnecessary item song. Even the tension between both officers, arising out of their conflicting approach to the task at hand, fails to come through convincingly.
What's nicely done, however, are some of the chase scenes. Particularly a Jason Bourne-style elaborate chase sequence between Devgan and a suspect, who leap across the roofs of buildings and through narrow alleys. There's also a thrilling car-chase scene in which Devgan, perched on the top of a speeding jeep, leads his partner through a dense forest, in pursuit of a car ahead.
But 'Aakrosh', like 'Missippi Burning', is about the land it's set in, and the people of that land. Replace the racial conflict of the original film with a caste conflict, and the stage is set for a violent tale of privileged Brahmins and the victims of their oppression, the Dalits. It's hard not to be moved by the gruesome attacks on innocent townsfolk, although the director steals even those scenes to the last detail.
Of the cast, Ajay Devgan dives into his character with sincerity, and Paresh Rawal makes your skin crawl as the despicable local cop. The film is engrossing in portions, but suffers on account of inconsistent writing.
I'm going with two-and-a-half out of five for director Priyadarshan's 'Aakrosh'. For a more satisfying experience, I recommend you watch 'Mississipi Burning' instead.
Rating: 2.5 / 5
Abhijit Das, Hyderabad
KS Subramanian, Chennai
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